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Fannish Identities and the OTW

So, I've been going through a bit of a metafandom phase and have been reading some of the hot topics there over the past few days. Two of them have kind of collided, the Rebecca Tushnet interview and Laura Hale's outing of Noami Novik's fannish identity (although, really, is there anyone who didn't know? I knew 2 years ago when I first discovered her fanfic), both have brought up some issues people have with the OTW.

The specific issue I want to touch on, is the fact that the board uses their real names instead of their fannish ones. I can understand the argument of wanting to know the people involved before getting involved with an organization but on the other hand...

Do people really do that kind of research before using a fan resource?
Do people look up the owners of a fansite, like say, stargatecaps.com before looking at their pics? Do author's look up the fan history of the owner of a fanfic archive before they post their stories there? Or research a compiler before following the links on a rec list or master list? Will you not join an LJ comm without knowing or researching who the mods are? Because I can tell you, I sure don't.

I base whether I use a site or not on the content they are providing, perhaps on who else is using it, and certainly if I've already heard rumours about the people involved with it I might stay away. I might join/use a particular fanresource because I know who's running it, but really that's as far as I go. I know I've used a couple of fansites where, even if I *were* to research the owner/mod I wouldn't find anything, because running that site *is* their contribution to fandom. They don't run a blog, or write fic/make vids/do graphics, so if you find reference to them, all you'll see if the particular fansite they run.

So am I weird in not looking up information? If not, why is the OTW different? Shouldn't we let the product speak for itself? Let the services, their mission statements, their plans, and their volunteers (who do give up their fannish names) speak for the group? I would think that if the board were full of rotten people, we'd be seeing that in the works they produce. I think the volunteers would have said something by now as they deal with the board, we would have seen people quitting and making ranting posts warning us off. I haven't seen any of that.

And if you *are* someone who researches the people involved in running a site... well, at least of two of the board members run blogs under their real names (that I know of) and I don't think it would take a great deal of effort to find the fannish names of all the board members. I mean, they all have a profile listed on the OTW page with lists of their RL and *fannish* credentials. If you google "automated archive" the first hit contains both the board member's name and her pseudonym (in the URL and her email address). And I'm *sure* that by the first election people are *really* going to have trouble keeping anonymous, because people will want a bit more details on your fannish past if they're going to vote for you.

Plus, currently the OTW is being run mostly by LJ people, but they're hoping to reach out to other parts of fandom too. On LJ, you can really get to know each other, and can share a lot of personal stuff publicly. It's possible to be in other parts of fandom, such as message boards, or hell, just fanfic archives, where you give very little personal information away. So even if someone, like say, my sister, were to run for the board, and post her fannish name(s) you'd dig up very little about her other than her (bad) fanfic.

I know there's at least one person on my flist feels this way about the OTW and we've spoken about it a couple times and one of the reasons we discussed for our disagreement is that she sees the OTW and it's board as sort of fannish politicians and feels she should know their history if they're going to represent us. I... don't see why that should be the case. I mean, the OTW isn't the governing body of the country of fandom, the only people it represents are those who choose to associate with it and who have bought a membership. Also, as a Canadian... well I think politics are a lot different here than they are in the US (and probably other countries as well, but this particular flister is American). I mean, in Canada, we don't need to know every single detail about our politicians, we just care about what their current policies are and how they've done as a politician up until now. Which, translated to OTW, you could make the argument that their fannish history is their time as a politician up 'til now, but I think that's really broad. I care about their experience doing the particular job they are signing up for. So, I care that Rebecca Tushnet is a lawyer. I care that Naomi has done programming before. Both of those are RL examples. All future board members will have had to put so many volunteer hours in with the OTW before they can run, so I think those hours should count as their past.

And also... while I would rather that the people on the OTW board not have a wank filled history, I could deal with it if they can keep the wank out of the OTW and do the job they signed up for. I don't need the OTW to have a perfect fandom history. I don't need them to be BNFs. I don't care if they write crappy fanfic. I don't care if they are mostly a lurker. I care that they get the job they signed up for done.

But then again, as I said, I'm Canadian, and we've elected lots of people that are... special (we've elected a drunk, one who spoke to dead people, one who avoids the media as much as possible and have re-elected ones who mockingly pirouette behind Queens and choke protesters in public). Gotta love Canada :P

And randomly: OMG, Fanlib is shutting down? Didn't see *that* one coming.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
The real name thing has something to do with the government rules of being certified as a non-profit organization with tax-exempt status and so on. Pseudonyms are not allowed for the board members of a non-profit, I believe...
Jul. 25th, 2008 12:20 am (UTC)
Oh, I know that. I get that they have to provide their RL names, and have decided not to link their online names to try and keep some privacy, I just don't get why people are offended by this. Because people are. I've heard more than one person argue that they can't support the OTW because they don't know the fannish histories of the board because they don't provide their fannish names. Or that they're being hypocritical by keeping a degree of separation from their RLs and their fannish lives.

And while I can understand people *wanting* to know the fannish past off the board, I would hope that people could get over that when they realize what it could cost them to do so. I mean, it's one thing for people to know you're involved in fandom, it's another thing for your mom/coworker/neighbour to find your underage, incestuous BDSM kiddie porn on the internet.
Jul. 28th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
So am I weird in not looking up information? If not, why is the OTW different? Shouldn't we let the product speak for itself?

I think the issue is that it doesn't speak for itself, at least not yet. IMO, all the corporate structure stuff is necessary for the archive, and most fans I've talked to think the archive is a great idea. However, that doesn't mean that everyone agrees/realizes/accepts that the structure is necessary to the archive, and since that's all that's visible now, it's naturally going to bug the more anarchist fans.

I think that a lot of the complaints will evaporate as soon as people can actually use the archive. Until then, there isn't much to judge the OTW by unless you're actively involved.
Aug. 5th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Note: Sorry this took me so long to respond to. I wrote up most of the reply the day you left this comment and thought I had posted it but I had actually just saved it as a draft so I could finish it up. I just noticed that today :S

I think the issue is that it doesn't speak for itself, at least not yet.
And see, that's part of my thinking too (although I don't remember if I said so in this post). There's all this talk about the OTW but so far they haven't really done anything to present to the public yet except a bunch of ideas.
So to me, it seems a bit like people are putting the cart before the horse complaining about the OTW. Probably because they have made their planning process more open than most other fan run sites but still. At this point in time, all that fans have to decide about the OTW is whether or not they'd like to be a part of it as you said. And if you don't want to be apart of it, but still have concerns that what they're doing will affect you, than why aren't people directing thier problems to the OTW directly, or do a little research? So many of the posts I see out there complaining about the OTW are complaining about things that are answered in the OTWs FAQ.
Aug. 5th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I find it pretty frustrating that people aren't willing to just read the damned FAQ. The complaints I've seen have often either been that the complainer doesn't want to interact on lj at all (you can e-mail us!) or that OTW people should be doing outreach and that it's rude to insist on everyone coming to the otw_news community for info. I disagree with them, but I suppose the attitude makes sense if you think of the OTW as trying to speak for all of fandom. If we were really doing that, I do think we'd have an obligation to seek people out and solicit their opinions. Since I view our actual activities/objectives/whatever as a couple of concrete projects, not as being some kind of media darling figurehead, I see no reason why people can't come looking for us if they're curious.

Aug. 5th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
*grumps along with you*

I find it pretty frustrating that people aren't willing to just read the damned FAQ.
I know! Half the drama would be gone if people did! And seriously, if you have the time to write an essay long rant, than you have the time to glance through the FAQs.

the complainer doesn't want to interact on lj at all (you can e-mail us!)
Not just email, there are IJ and GJ accounts, as well as a mailing list (which I'm on), not to mention the entire thing is going to be *off* LJ as it's own site. Hell, the internal people aren't communicating through LJ, they're using Campfire. An LJ is *not* required to take part in the OTW.

or that OTW people should be doing outreach
And again, to me that seems like you're (general you, not you specifically, since we're obviously both supporters :P) putting the cart before the horse again. Right now they're just looking for people to help them get things set up. That's like insisting that you *have* to post job postings in every single newspaper/employment forum that potential customers might read. Sure if they want the parts like the archive to be open to everyone than they should do out reaches, but they don't have an archive up and running yet.

Right now they're mostly relying on word to mouth for advertisement but I'm sure once they have more they'll be out reaching like crazy. They've already started to do reach outs at cons, I'm sure other parts of fandom will follow.
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
Well, to be fair, the comments are turned off on IJ and GJ. I don't think that's a big deal, but I've seen some people very pissed off about it.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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